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Union Pacific Railroad announced last week that it has launched a developer portal that allows shippers to access relevant railroad data within their own business platforms.Driving the service are application program interfaces (APIs), which allow computer applications to interact with each other to pass data or perform actions, UP officials said in an announcement on the company website.UP's microservices implementation uses thousands of APIs internally. Its microservices platform has an API registry that serves as middleware to enable the railroad's systems to talk to each other. That effort extends the APIs outside the company to its customers, UP officials said."APIs are going to be the preferred communication channel that's used going forward for system integration because they lay the foundation for systems to more freely and quickly transfer data in real time," said Lee Sorrick, UP's director of information technologies.For example, shippers are able to integrate an API directly into their systems that enables them to release rail equipment without having to log into the UP website."We're putting flexibility into the customers' hands," said Kiley Freeman, UP's director of commercial strategy and customer experience. "Customers are excited to optimize their supply chain, reduce the manual work and automate processes all the way through."